I can really relate to this movie. Not the teen angsty seventeen year old, but the grumpy high school teacher played by Woody Harrelson. The line about the “run-on sentences” is one of my favorite lines of the year, and one I could see myself saying in the same situation.
There have been a ton of these types of social outcast, teen drama films over the years, but The Edge of Seventeen does a very fine job of creating well developed characters and avoiding the cliches that can easily be prevalent in this genre of film.
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a seventeen year old girl who has had a lot of problems in her life. She has a perfect brother Darian (Blake Jenner), a mother (Kyra Sedgwick) who has been off the rails since the death of her husband, and a lack of friends her own age. Nadine does have one best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), but when Krista falls for the perfect brother, Nadine feels betrayed and tossed aside. This sends her into even more of a downward spiral.
Nadine goes to her social studies teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) as a sounding board, but he is anything but empathetic toward her situation. In his own way, Mr. Bruner provides what Nadine needs in a snide and snippy manner.
There are some really strong performances in this film, lead by Harrelson and Steinfeld. This relationship between not-so-great teacher and overly-needy student is the strongest, most real relationship of the film. It is written with a lot of wit and intelligence, providing a real tone of caring.
I also enjoyed the way the writers created Darian. He could have easily fallen into the perfect sibling trope, but Darian shows the cracks in his veneer as he has to continually step up to help his family, despite at the detriment of his own life.
The film is very poignant and at many times very funny. The coming of age story is nothing new, but this film takes that and subverts it by taking the main character and making her a stubborn, unlikable mess who you still can’t help but love and root for. Hailee Steinfeld brings all of her youthful vigor to this role, providing an uncertainty to exactly how this film would come to an end. I did worry that, at some point in this film, Nadine would take a turn into tragedy.
I also enjoyed the relationship between Nadine and the lovesick loser Edwin (Hayden Szeto). This was another character that, in a worse movie, would have fallen into simplistic tropes, but in this film becomes a much more fascinating character filled with rooting potential. The cute animation near the end of the film was very funny as well.
I was a little disappointed that there was not a scene between Nadine and her mother to smooth over that relationship, although it is a powerful chance that the film took by having this important relationship only shown to improve through tiny steps- over a text message. I still thought it felt like a scene was missing between them, but I respect the moxie of the movie makers.
I do think the film went a little long, but I am not sure what I would cut out.
Again, I really loved the disgruntled teacher played by Harrelson. When he put on a film about Lincoln and left the classroom, I howled because I know of teachers who have done that before.
The Edge of Seventeen was a very enjoyable film, deep and funny, and contributing something new to a genre that tends to be repetitive. Strong performances highlighted an already excellent script.